May 22, 2012

A toast to Joris De Bres

Bryce Edwards makes an interesting observation:

The Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres has become increasingly outspoken about politics recently - using his public office to adjudicate on highly political and partisan issues.

Regardless of the correctness or otherwise of his pronouncements, some will be uncomfortable with an office of the state being so interventionist.

First of all, I think it’s wrong to label De Bres’ public comments as interventionist. They are, after all, just public comments. If De Bres was using his powers under the Human Rights Act to force a situation on another person or organisation, then that would be interventionist. I think public comments lack the tangibility to be labelled interventionist.

Anywho, De Bres’ increasing activity is coinciding with an increasing amount of anti-Maori sentiment - read racism. As a few examples, think of Paul Holmes’ Waitangi column, the coverage and response to the Popata brothers, the senseless opposition to Ngati Whatua’s treaty settlement and Louis Crimp.

There have been regional racism incidents too. In the Taranaki internet commentators tore into local Maori for ‘daring’ to exercise their legal right to apply for customary title. In all of these situations, De Bres has largely been the only voice of opposition. Morally speaking, De Bres is obligated to oppose racism and, quite unsurprisingly, he is legally obliged to do so under s5(2)(l) of the Human Rights Act 1993:

The Commission is to “make public statements in relation to any group of persons in, or who may be coming to, New Zealand who are or may be subject to hostility, or who have been or may be brought into contempt, on the basis that that group consists of persons against whom discrimination is unlawful under this Act”

As I’ve argued, Holmes Waitangi column brought Maori into contempt, as did much of the discussion around Ngati Whatua’s treaty settlement, the Popata brother’s story and discussion and Louis Crimp’s comments. So, taking that view, De Bres is obligated to comment under the Act.

I’m bloody glad De Bres is commenting on these issues because there aren’t enough Maori with the ability, position and willingness to comment on these issues. Racism should never go unchallenged and De Bres deserves credit for acting on that principle.


  1. Joris de Bres counters Crimps racism by denouncing the overwhleming democratic referenda result on Maori seats in local government. My bet is many Maori voted against this too.

    This view represents separatism and privilege gifted to one race or culture above another.

    That world view does not represent equality for the human race in 2012, nor could it ever be called equality.

    The world is not black and white any longer is it Morgan?

  2. Wish people would own their statements more - Anonymous.

    This country post contact was founded on an agreement where Tangata Whenua would maintain their sovereignty over their lands and resources. Whether that is through local government seats or not, the underlying issue is that authority for iwi and hapuu having a say in issues has been denied, stolen or whatever else you want to call it.

    Currently it is not at all Maori who are privileged.



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